A pair of scammers who were convicted of running a debt collection scam that bilked individuals out of nearly $6 million have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Laurence Sessum was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison and Jacqueline Dianne Okomba was sentenced to six years yesterday by a federal judge in North Carolina.
Both Sessum and Okomba were also ordered to serve two years under court supervision once they are released from prison.
Both were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and obstruction of justice. Sessum was also convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Sessum operated a fake collection agency, called Direct Processing LLC, and collectors intimidated and harassed individuals into making payments on debts that were either non-existent or had already been paid. The scammers used an automated telephone dialing system to leave messages for victims, many of whom were elderly, directing them to return the calls to resolve the purported debts, according to prosecutors. To induce victims to call back, the messages often contained fraudulent and misleading information, including that there was “possible pending litigation” against the victims, or that there was a “process server” attempting to locate them.
The defendants also sent victims documents that were made to look like legal documents that had been filed in court.
When the defendants learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had seized funds in one of Direct Processing’s bank accounts, they removed computers, documents, and records from the company’s offices. The FBI executed a search warrant and found monitors at the work stations, but no computers. When asked where the they were, Sessum said the company did not own any computers.
Judge Robert Conrad of the District Court for the Western District of North Carolina labeled the crimes as “heinous” when imposing sentence on the two defendants. He also called the scam a “criminal spree that involved great deception.”